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The race for City Hall

Jobs and schools promise to be top issues in next year’s city elections. The mayor’s education agenda faces its toughest test in the African-American communities that gave him strong support in 2011.

Child-parent centers to expand

Chicago’s child-parent centers are slated to expand and gain additional resources with a $15 million Investing in Innovation grant won last year by the University of Minnesota.

The money will fund five new child-parent centers in Chicago, four in Evanston/Skokie District 65, and a total of 14 new locations in Normal School District 5, Milwaukee Public Schools, St. Paul (Minn.) Public Schools, and two other Minnesota districts.

The university has been tracking some of the centers’ graduates for more than 25 years through the Chicago Longitudinal Study, which has found that these students attained higher levels of education and earn more money than those who went to other early-childhood programs. They are also less likely to have criminal records or abuse drugs.

The special ingredient in child-parent centers is thought to be a combination of parent involvement, community and health care resources, small classes, and a curriculum that flows smoothly from preschool through 3rd grade.

Three decades after the study began, educators are increasingly focusing their attention on the importance of smooth transitions from preschool to the primary grades.

However, none of Chicago’s 10 Child-Parent Centers are currently implementing the whole “evidence-based” child-parent center model that has been studied, says researcher Arthur Reynolds, a professor at the University of Minnesota’s Institute of Child Development.

“That doesn’t mean, of course, that they aren’t effective,” Reynolds says.

That model requires small classes (no larger than 17 students in preschool and 25 in K-3rd grade, even with assistants); a head teacher, who serves as the instructional leader for preschool and kindergarten; a parent resource teacher and parent room; a school-community liaison; health services on-site or provided through a community contractor; and “program facilitators,” who work with primary-grades teachers to improve instruction.

Currently, though, the only extra staff at the district’s child-parent centers are a head teacher, parent resource teacher, clerk, and teachers’ assistants, according to district spokeswoman Kathryn Hickey. She says that funding cuts have happened because of low enrollment in many of the programs.

In fall 2004, the district closed 8 of its then-23 child-parent centers for that same reason and over the years, it cut full-day programs from many of them.

A New America Foundation article details the centers’ struggles, noting that their decline coincided with the gentrification of the very inner-city neighborhoods they were designed to serve, increased Title I spending on literacy programs (which left less Title I money for the centers), the end of social promotion in CPS, and the rise of expensive, ineffective remediation programs.

Hickey says the new child-parent center sites have not been identified yet. “We are looking at former CPC sites with multiple classrooms… other program sites with multiple classrooms, and/or ‘center-like’ facilities,” she wrote in an email.


George N. Schmidt wrote 2 years 45 weeks ago

Reversing the CPS attacks on Child Parent Centers

If this be true and the CPCs will be reborn, then we will have to monitor how the history is told as well as what develops. Chicago's CPCs did not wear out, as is implied in your article: they were assassinated. And wherever a sentence has an active voice (subject; verb; object) we deserve an accurate version of what happened. Accountability and all that. Who killed most of the Chicago CPCs? Read on....

All the research showed by the end of the 1990s that the Child Parent Centers were "working." So naturally CPS began to undermine them, then shut them down.

From what I remember (I'd have to go back over notes and photographs), CPS began attacking the Child Parent Centers and closing them down about the time Arne Duncan took over as CEO (July 2001) and every Board meeting I watched as Michael Scott, then Rufus Williams, then the next and next and next in line hauled out Barbara Bowman as the "expert" on early childhood stuff to talk about why CPS was doing the right thing in destroying the CPCs.

I'll believe that the CPCs are safe when Barbara Bowman is no longer sitting on the executive side of the railing during Board of Education meetings and the child enrollment at those places increases as the centers are increased. Until then, this is good news that hasn't yet become news.

As to those quotes from Karen Hickey, she's just wrong. But what would you expect from a "communications" person who hasn't been there for more than two months. The CPCs were not closed because of "low enrollment." That's simply not true, possibly a lie (depending upon how Hickey got the information). The parents were not allowed to enroll their kids in those places, then CPS double-crossed the schools and proclaimed that there was not enough "demand" (sound like "choice"? but in reality, the parents wanted the choice and were being denied it, over and over and over...).

One of the reasons why I didn't join the public mourning for Michael Scott, even though I had known him longer than most and liked him personally (despite the cynical corruption he represented) was that Michael, along with Arne, was part of the project to destroy the CPCs as they existed and had been flourishing as late as the end of the 20th Century. More than a dozen times I listened while he trotted out Barbara Bowman to lower the axe when the CPCs were on the executioner's block. That was destruction, not attrition.

I still have a wonderful memory of the CPCs. Back in 1994, during my last campaign for CTU president, I visited Stockton (in Uptown, pre gentrification days) and began my day at the Stockton CPC. It was filled with those wonderful little kids. They began each school day singing Woody Guthrie's "This Land is Your Land..." It almost made this patriot cry, and was definitely an energizing way to begin a day devoted to democracy. I may have lost that election (that was the first time Tom Reece discovered his inner African American, thanks to the UPC's phone banks), but the experiences of campaigning across Chicago -- and many of those CPCs -- was always a great one, and now a great memory.

Anonymous wrote 2 years 45 weeks ago


I think the CPCs could have survived if they would have followed the population they served. Also if some would have been opened in the highly underserved Latino communities that for many years asked for CPCs but were denied because there was the thinking that CPCs would serve only the African-american communities.

George N. Schmidt wrote 2 years 45 weeks ago

CPS survival

OK, "anonymous", I'll take your notion on. (I often just ignore anonymous, especially when the comment is as innocuous as the one you just posted; why hide out on that? It's not like you're exposing the latest cover up from the Inspector General's office or the latest $24,999 "contract" going to the mayor's cronies...).

As the Board of Education and executive leadership of the city's public schools, the board members, Duncan, and Scott had an obligation to the public schools. But by the 21st Century, their actual agenda was privatization, and the sabotage of the CPCs is one of the more dramatic examples of that secret agenda at work.

It wasn't up to the CPCs to "follow the population they served." It was to CPS to expand the CPCs to serve the populations that were entitled to them. Every poor community in Chicago has families that need decent, professional public pre-kindergarten programs. But the agenda for CPS, by the time Arne took over, was privatization, massively so, behind that wall of smiles and smarm and mendacity I covered month after month. While the dollars that should have gone to the CPCs were being drained from the public schools, other public dollars were being poured into every storefront. Hello "Preacher Patronage." Non union, too. And very very very very non-professional.

But the families desperately needed (and still need) decent pre-school for their little ones. CPS should have been providing it, but instead Arne and Michael (and later, Rufus and various; then Mary Richardson Lowry, etc.) just followed that agenda to terminate the CPCs and expand the patronage (most of it to those churches that have been popping up in favor of anything the mayor is demanding).

Instead, CPS deliberately sabotaged the CPCs as the projects were closed and gentrification took place in some areas, while refusing to establish new ones in those massive stretches of Chicago that needed them and were entitled to them. Again, it goes all the way back to Vallas and Chico, but takes wing under Duncan and Scott.

Also worth noting: The Stockton CPC that I was talking about earlier did not "serve" an African American population. As I noted, it was in Uptown before the massive gentrification.

The point is still the same: CPS centrally sabotaged the CPCs. That's a matter of historical record. Barbara Bowman was just the hypocrite that carried the spear that was stuck into the heart of each of the CPCs scheduled for destruction. This was done, all smiles and expertise, as Duncan and Scott smiled and announced their concern for such things, while assassinating each of them, one by one.

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